With the first half coming to a close in last Sunday’s AFC Championship game, Kansas City led Cincinnati 21-3, and after a Bengals’ mistake, were camped out virtually on the opposition one-yard line. Arguably the deadliest offense in the NFL was surely about to go 28-3 ahead at the half. Game over. Super Bowl here we come – again.
What then transpired will be enshrined in legend in Ohio as long as this irresistible, compelling sport is played. A heroic stand. Turnover on downs. An unlikely Bengals score themselves, before the half. Then an absolute, abject second-half collapse from the much-vaunted Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes in particular, and Cincinnati are going to the Super Bowl.
They will face the Los Angeles Rams, in their very own California home. LA disposed of San Francisco in slightly less dramatic circumstances, but also needed to come from behind. So – this phenomenal, topsy-turvy, utterly unpredictable season had spoken, loudly, once more.
KC’s demise was symptomatic of their season, really. Just not QUITE at the races, by their own very high, in-the-groove standards. Yes, plenty to like, but bomb-proof? Sadly not. Exactly the same for Tampa Bay Bucs, and the Green Bay Packers. Flattered us into thinking they were the real deal, when they were only, on their day, merely very good.
Tough measuring standards I know, and historically not many teams just dominate throughout the regular season and then sail on to the Lombardi. It’s that difficult to win. Far better to manage, often unspectacularly, to make it to postseason, then grow. Feel the power. Embrace your destiny. Exactly as Tampa did last term.
LA have been assembled, expensively, to win a Super Bowl. Some of the biggest names in the sport wear the shirt – some of whom may still be awaiting the allocation of a parking spot at SoFi.
Odell Beckham Jr. Von Miller. Sony Michel arrived in August. Matt Stafford is now a veteran of just one whole season, too. For me they’re exactly in that KC, Tampa, Green Bay bracket – darned good, but by no means infallible.
They also have the brilliantly destructive defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Lots of team-mates have been saying they really need to win it for the 30-yr-old, such is the esteem in which he’s held. In terms of defensive giants, he’s in every conversation, season after season.
The giant-slayers, and every season has at least one, are the Cincinnati Bengals. They have a developing, near elite-level QB in Joe Burrow. They also boast an unbelievable rookie talent in receiving/running powerhouse Ja’Marr Chase. 6tf 4in Tee Higgins claimed 6 priceless receptions for over 100 yards against the Chiefs, and is an emerging talent. The rest has been down to never-say-die spirit, fabulous organisation, and, one feels, an increasing sense of destiny.
Sometimes it’s just written. Teams go on the kind of run that bears no close examination with what really should be happening. Names are made. The fates smile benignly. This might just be that kind of year for the Cincinnati Bengals.
We’ll be back with much more between now and Super Bowl 56, at LA’s SoFi Stadium on Sunday, Feb 13th. This season of seasons deserves, nay demands, a finale in keeping with what’s gone before these past many weeks. Fingers crossed that we’ve still got one last epic left up our sleeve.
We alluded to it at weekend, but Tom Brady really has retired now from the most glittering NFL career in history. Seven Super Bowls. Don’t forget – he lost three, too. Five-time Super Bowl MVP. A professional in this attritional, break-neck sport, since 2000.
Hand on heart – I’d rather watch peak-levels Joe Montana, Aaron Rodgers, and Patrick Mahomes. BUT – no-one comes close in terms of longevity, and those 10 Super Bowl appearances. He’s been astonishing. Tampa’s levels dropped this term, from last season’s successes – but his didn’t.
We salute, and respect him. And my goodness, how he’ll be missed.
Super Bowl betting – from Betfred